Friday, November 22, 2013

JFK

It was a routine afternoon in Green Harbor, November 22, 1963. My pretty white wicker rocking chair slowly moved back and forth as I held 4 month old Anne in my arms. Our cute black and white border collie-type dog, Major, was asleep near the chair, Nancy and Pa Hughes were in the kitchen chatting on "As the World Turns." Just an ordinary afternoon for me in my sweet little "Mary Homemaker" world.  There I was a young married mother, idealistically living in what I thought, was the perfect place and world. Suddenly, Nancy and Pa were interrupted by Walter Cronkite's cracking voice telling us that the president, John F Kennedy, had been shot. The feeling of being punched in the stomach still returns when I relive that moment, suspended in disbelief, clutching my little one even closer, I managed to get to the phone that hung on the kitchen wall. I remember it took me several tries to dial the correct number to reach my mother - my beloved go-to-person whenever I needed comfort. She didn't know, and I can still hear her voice above my sobs. The memory of sliding to the floor in grief as I spoke on the phone is so fresh.  Mum told me to "come home." I reached my husband's workplace and asked them to tell him where I would be, and that he come there after work.

Still not knowing the president's fate, I threw together what I needed, bundling Anne up, took the dog, and got on the road in a heart-racing blur. I do remember that I drove my black 1958 Ford coupe on  a section of highway that was not quite complete and not legally open ( I did have knowledge that it was drivable!)   I arrived at my parent's house and fell into arms of grief on hearing the news that our beloved president had died.  For days, we sat glued to the little black and white television watching every second of coverage while we cried. There was no sleeping, just crying. My mother was also clutching a baby in those days, my youngest brother, Sam, had been born, just two months before Anne. Mum, as always, cooked for comfort, yet none of us felt like eating.

I've tried to aptly re-live and describe the emotions and true thoughts of that time, only to have them awash in the memory of rocking, Anne and crying, both at home and then with my parents. On this 50th anniversary, it seemed to become very clear to me that the events of those days were the death of my innocent, idealistic life and dreams.  The hope in our hearts when Kennedy was elected, the poignancy of his inauguration, were snuffed out, and my rudder gone.  The life I had dreamed, unraveled. After the tears, came an anger and a very turbulent, rebellious time.

Those times cannot be undone, and now I choose to look on how very fortunate I was to have a loving family where I could seek shelter and grieve.  Vivid are the memories of how still the world was, and how insular we felt, as we huddled by the television.
To this day, that family sustains me with love and they are the first I turn to in times of happiness and grief.
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Thought I would attach the letter below that I received this morning from my longtime dear, dear friend, Lynne. We met in high school.  Her parents were in the foreign service and frequently abroad, thus, Lynne came to my small town to stay with her grandparents to finish her high school years. I had the good fortune to acquire her friendship!!
In the summer of 1959, Lynne's parents were back in the US at their home in Bethesda, MD and I was invited to travel there to spend the summer. Lynne and I made the most wonderful memories that summer, and I was afforded the honor of seeing all the great sites of Washington, DC, including visiting the State Department, AND to hear JFK address the senate as a young man in our beautiful Capital building.  It changed this farmgirl's life. Lynne's friendship is a treasure to this day. 

  
Good Morning,


Yes, Nov. 22nd is etched in my memory as is our visit to the Capital, when we had the incredible opportunity to hear John Kennedy speak.  It is a highlight among my memories, and I always mention it when visitors come here.



Nov. 22nd is also Daddy's birthday and he never felt the same way about it after Kennedy's death.  The celebration was taken away from it.  The day Pres. Kennedy died, Mother and Daddy were living in Calcutta, India (maybe I've told you this already). The boys were in boarding school in the mts. of southern India.  My roommate from college, Kathie, and I took a trip to India to be with Mother and Daddy for the summer after our Sophomore year.  It was an amazing trip just getting there.  Anyway, Nov. 22nd, I was in the hospital due to amoebic dysentery (having a not-so-great severe treatment).  I was literally on the "john" when the Nurse burst in:  "Your President has been shot!"  I couldn't believe it.  No one could.  Days later, the American Consulate (that Daddy was assigned to, we lived in the same building as the Consulate, on a different floor) had available a Memorial, Condolence Book for people to sign.  You wouldn't have believed the lines!  The Indian people lined up for hours and hours in endless lines in silence just to sign the book.  It was very touching.  President and Mrs. Kennedy affected so many lives, world wide.  A bright star.





Thanks for being my friend, lo, these many years!



Love ya,

Lynne
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Here's a note from my sister in Colorado, Bebo (Susan), on her memories of 11/22/63

Yes, I remember 11/22/63 well.  I was in class at Quincy Jr. College.   They sent everyone home.  I remember sitting on the huge stone front stairs going into the main building in a daze with other students.   Many of us were crying.  When I got home, Mum had all the shades pulled down and we all were glued to the TV.   What a tragedy. 
 
I know we are only a mircocosm of what happened that day, but wanted to share....the impact lives!!

5 comments:

Judy said...

I too was in college--had three small children. We were afraid that Kennedy's assassination was a signal to the Russian's to send their ICBM's our way. The height of the cold war--scary times back then.

Jean R. said...

What a powerful essay! I'm glad I stopped by to read.

MBG said...

So well written, Kitty!

That awful day, I was just leaving class in my freshman year at Kalamazoo College in Michigan, when a girl came running down the hall in tears, shouting that the president had been shot. All my friends ran to the girl's dorm and spent the next few days glued to the TV, in tears, in disbelief.

That day was the beginning -- of a major shift in the way I viewed the world, and of my loss of idealism. And it was the start of rebellion, too. My world shifted on its axis that day, and has never been the same again in so many ways.

Thank you for sharing your experience.

Merry

Balisha said...

I wrote about my day that Nov.today too.

We rented the movie "Parkland" the other day... and while watching it, my eyes welled up with tears after all these years.

What innocents we were back then.
Balisha

Retired English Teacher said...

I am deeply touched by this recounting of that fateful day. You seemed to capture so much of what I was trying to say in my own post written about my memory of the day. Like you, I could not recapture the shock, the disbelief, and grief that we felt on that day. It was the death of an innocent, idealistic time for so many of us as individual and as a nation. Thanks for sharing the beautiful piece of writing that came straight from your heart.